The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park lies within the Kalahari Desert. This vast landscape perfectly blends red dunes and dry rivers in a picturesque image of what Sub-Saharan deserts are known for.

Translated, the word Kgalagadi means ‘land of thirst’, and anyone who has ever visited this area of southern Africa will agree.

While there are numerous tours available that can take you on an epic journey, nothing quite beats a self-drive of this great area in our experience. And Car Hire South Africa is your first bet for the best rentals for your trip.

But, as great as the thought of trekking through this beast of a sand-swept desert might be, going unprepared can lead to disappointment. Factors like what car you choose, the best time to visit, and what camps you can stay at are all important to consider.

Luckily we’re here to help and make sure that your Kgalagadi self-drive is an experience of a lifetime.



Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park: What You Need to Know

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is spread over both South Africa and Botswana. What we know today as the Kgalagadi used to be two separate parks with joined borders. In 1999, the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park (in South Africa) and the Mabuasehube-Gemsbok National Park (in Botswana) became one.

Considering the immense size of the park, at 38,000 sq km, it is now one of the largest national parks in Africa. The majority of the park is situated in Botswana and minor parts of it in South Africa.



Best Time to Visit Kgalagadi

Depending on what time of year you plan on heading to Kgalagadi you can expect different weather patterns welcoming you to the park. From March to May is when the ‘wet’ season ends meaning you’ll find more animals at and around the numerous watering holes.

When May ends up till September it’s officially dry season, and winter – cold and windy days are standard. Then from October to April, it’s summer which in Kgalagadi means breathtaking summer flower-filled bushveld and very high temperatures.

Kgalagadi Camps

Once you’re inside Kgalagadi we recommend you spend a few nights at some of the numerous accommodation options in the form of overnight camping grounds and wildlife reserve lodges.

The variety of different Kgalagadi accommodation types in the park caters to any and all, from self-catering overnight rest stops to luxurious lodges fit for a few days’ stay. Due to the size of the park though, it’s a good idea to plan your accommodation well and book as far in advance as possible.

When planning your trip, check your Kgalagadi camping sites availability calendar. Knowing which Kgalagadi accommodation sites are available is all dependent on when you are planning to take your trip.



Self Driving the Kgalagadi

Choosing a self-drive tour of Kgalagadi means you’ll need to prepare for a few things.

Getting to Kgalagadi is in itself already quite a trek as the main gate used to enter the park, Twee Rivieren, is about 1076 km from Cape Town and 950 km from Johannesburg. Both of these routes head through Upington. Thus, if you’re looking at car rentals, we recommend a car rental in Johannesburg or car rental in Cape Town to transport you on your journey.

Although Kgalagadi is one of the largest national parks in Africa, most of the park doesn’t have many roads to follow. The roads that do head through the park are ideally navigated with a rugged all-terrain vehicle. This makes driving through the park both exciting and challenging. Nearly the park’s entire terrain, especially within Botswana, will require a 4×4.

Beyond this, you need to keep in mind that your travelling distance and time in between the camping and viewing sites inside Kgalagadi will also be quite long. With distances ranging anywhere from one to six hours between Kgalagadi camps and most roads to the outer camps consisting of 4×4 trails only. Choosing the right car rental company and the right vehicle is very important.




To navigate Kgalagadi effectively, we recommend a 4×4 with a height clearance of at least 190 mm. Ideally, consider a rental with roughly 500 km to 650km range on one fuel tank (there are only three fuel stops in Kgalagadi). Power steering is non-negotiable. And, as a comfort recommendation, choosing a vehicle with low-range 4×4 capabilities is a great idea.

Air conditioning on this trip is also a lifesaver. For best results, use Car Hire South Africa to book a 4×4 with reputable rental companies like Avis Car Hire, Budget Car Hire, and more.

What to Expect Inside Kgalagadi

Driving through this rough, rugged, and authentic African park offers many surprises and treats. The watering holes found throughout the park, most of which are close to the overnight campgrounds, lure in all kinds of wildlife at dusk and dawn.

You’ll easily spot black-maned Kalahari lions surveying almost every part of Kgalagadi due to the large variety of prey. And, also always on the hunt, you can expect to see both brown and spotted hyenas.

As far as predators go, few come close to the nearly 200 leopards and 250 cheetahs that reportedly roam the park as well. Kgalagadi is truly a hunter’s paradise, and the park showcases this very well. Unfortunately, there are no elephants to be found inside the park.

For bird lovers, the park is also pure heaven as it is the natural habitat of over 200 species of bird and also a hotspot for the annual bird migration throughout Sub-Saharan Africa.



Essential Tips for your Kgalagadi Self Drive

Before you head out on this self-drive experience in South Africa and Botswana, here are our essential tips to make the most of your trip.

There are strict rules to follow when driving, the most crucial being remaining in your vehicle while driving, driving before sunrise or after sunset is not allowed, and do not feed the animals you come across.

Being a Saharan Desert, the days in Kgalagadi get hot, and the nights get cold. So pack smart for your self-drive tour of Kgalagadi.

Kgalagadi is a low-risk malaria zone, but we recommend checking with your doctor for any information regarding this before your trip. Oh, and bring insect repellent. You can thank us later.


Final Thoughts – Kgalagadi Self Drive

If you’re looking for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, memorable wildlife encounters, and the breathtaking beauty of the Sub-Saharan night sky, then Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park is your paradise.

How you plan to tackle this journey is entirely up to you, but when it comes to choosing the right vehicle for your trip, look no further than Car Hire South Africa.